The Character Movement


Take Time to Waste Time

By Joe Cavanuagh

One recent and particularly busy spring day, I came home late from work. I jumped out of my car – in my sport coat and dress pants – and rushed up the driveway. My daughter, Tess (pictured above), was waiting in the front yard. When she saw me, she called out, “Dad, come here and lie on the grass with me.” I haven’t done that in years. I looked at my ironed pants, put down my briefcase and walked over to lie on the grass with Tess.

We looked up at the clouds and started imagining the shapes we saw: a face of an old man with a hat on, a unicorn, a giant boat with a sail. After about 20 minutes, my wife Jane called us inside for dinner.

I know that from a cultural or business perspective, those 20 minutes staring at the clouds with my daughter were a total waste of time. Yet as a parent, those 20 minutes were the highlight of my week. It can be so easy to forget who and what is important in our lives. And when we do forget, we start to hurt people. We stretch ourselves too thin, we get stressed and we miss the little things that help us connect with our loved ones. The frenzied pace of our lives can be dehumanizing. We need to waste more time – in a good way – because when we do, we have more time to pause and be still and reflective, which enables us to remember what’s truly important.


Here I am speaking at bushCONNECT on May 4, 2015.

Those precious moments with my daughter reminded me to slow down and take a few moments to waste time with the ones I love. Wasting time is something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately. I shared this story earlier this month at a regional conference called bushCONNECT. The event, hosted by the Bush Foundation, was designed to build meaningful connections among networks of leaders in the region. I was honored to share my ideas around how – as a society – we need to slow down and take the time to connect with the important people in our lives.

My challenge for you this summer is to take more time to waste time. Step away from technology and go for a walk with a loved one. Play a game. Go to a movie. Lie down on the grass and watch the clouds pass by. I promise that you won’t regret the time spent reflecting on your life or connecting with another person.

This summer, we plan to slow down a bit ourselves and take a short break with our blog. We’ll be back in the fall with more posts about building the character of today’s young people. If you have any suggestions about posts you’d like to see in the future, please let us know. In the meantime, have a wonderful summer filled with wasted time with your precious friends and family.

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